Ukrainians of Canada - History and Cultural Relations

Ukrainian immigration to Canada took place in three major waves. The first and largest influx (170,000 individuals) took place between 1891 and the beginning of World War I. The vast majority of this group left from the provinces of Galicia and Bukovyna, a small segment of western Ukrainian territory controlled by the Austro-Hungarian Empire at that time. They were mostly peasant farmers wanting to escape poverty, exploitation, and overpopulation. Canada was then actively soliciting such agricultural immigrants to develop its vast and empty prairies. Ukrainian immigrants settled in somewhat compact blocks on homesteads across the large belt of aspen parkland spanning the prairies. The 67,000 Ukrainians who arrived in the interwar period composed the second wave of immigrants. Manitoba was the most popular destination for this group. Work in agriculture and railway construction awaited many. The third immigration consisted primarily of persons displaced after World War II, which was particularly devastating in Ukrainian territories. This group of up to 40,000 people tended to be more urban, more educated, and more politically and nationally motivated than their earlier counterparts. They settled primarily in Canada's urban areas, with Ontario receiving almost half of their number. Since 1952, immigration of Ukrainians to Canada has been light.

The general attitude of the Canadian establishment in the earlier years was to anglicize or "Canadianize" the Ukrainians once they arrived. Ukrainian community development was more or less tolerated depending on how the elite Perceived that the organizations might help facilitate assimilation. Attitudes also varied according to economic and Political trends. "Anti-alien" sentiments rose sharply during World War I. Bilingual education systems were dismantled and thousands of Ukrainians were kept under surveillance, interned, and sometimes deported with little justification. In spite of a few such experiences, however, Ukrainians have been generally quite pro-Canadian. They perceive Canada as a country that treated them much better and offered them greater prospects than Austro-Hungary, Poland, the Russian Empire, or later the Soviet Union. Ukrainians were very instrumental in establishing Canada's policy of multiculturalism in the 1960s. In theory at least, this policy promotes the cultural identity of the myriad of peoples that populate the country, seeing strength in this diversity. Support for multiculturalism seems to be somewhat on the wane in "English" Canada in the 1980s. Cultural relations between Ukrainians in Canada and those in the Soviet Union, at least until recently, have been somewhat distant. They have been deterred by the wars, the distance, and the cold war attitudes on both sides.

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